Spring training games start today.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

First spring training game today at 1 PM Eastern. Bryan Mitchell on the mound. Outside of Ellsbury (arrived late to camp, new daddy) the lineup looks like what could be the Opening Day lineup.

Bleier traded, A-Rod makes retirement official, A-Rod mgr.? and a rule

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Designated for assignment last week when the Yanks picked up Chris Carter, Richard Bleier was traded today to the Orioles for a player to be named later or ca$h considerations.

A-Rod showed up at spring training to be an instructor (and one expensive one at that). When asked about a comeback, he mentioned that since that last game as a Yankee on August 12th of last year that some teams reached out to him but that no, he isn’t coming back. He’s officially retired.

This week there has been some talk of A-Rod as a manager, maybe even replacing Girardi. I’m not in favor of that for a couple different reasons. First, how would he handle a pitching staff? Houk, Berra, Torre and Girardi, to name some recent Yankees managers, were all catchers. A-Rod wasn’t.

Also, take a GOOD look at some of the greatest managers of all time. How many great players do you see? Rose wasn’t especially a good manager before his suspension from baseball. Neither was Ted Williams in his short term as manager,nor Eddie Mathews or Mel Ott. Ryne Sandberg? Bust. Player-managers like Tris Speaker succeeded because they were still PLAYING.

The great managers are usually those who were NOT great when playing (Joe Torre being an exception) but who got to the majors based on their brains and tenacity not their playing skill. Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Billy Martin, Sparky Anderson, Whitey Herzog and Dick Williams weren’t great players but were great managers. Casey Stengel wasn’t known as an all-time great player, neither Miller Huggins. The same can be said for people who never made the majors like Joe Maddon, Jim Leyland, Earl Weaver or Joe McCarthy.

Being a great player doesn’t make you a great manager. Quite the opposite.

Lastly, MLB is making a change to the intentional walk. I hate it. Now, a manager only need to signal and the batter takes his base. No pitches need to be thrown. It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve seen wild pitches, passed balls, stolen bases off those balls thrown wide of the plate. Heck, last year a pitcher threw a ball not far off the plate, Gary Sanchez swung at it and just missed hitting a HR (it was caught just short of the fence for a sac fly). Terrible decision. I’m going to hate this rule.

Yanks to sign Jon Niese.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Pending passing a physical tomorrow, the Yanks are expected to sign Jon Niese to a minor league contract.

Niese has spent most of his career for the other NY team, the Mets.

The lefty pitcher is 30, and had a rough 2016 for the Pirates and Mets. From 2010-2015, he averaged 10-10, 3.86 per year for the Mets but last year saw 8-7, 5.50 for the Pirates and Mets before he needed knee surgery.

Niese will battle Adam Warren, Luis Severino, Chad Green, Luis Cessa and Bryan Mitchell for a spot in the rotation as a #4 or #5 starter behind Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia and Michael Pineda. Of those five guys battling for two spots, Niese is the only lefty and if he wins a spot would join C.C. as the lefties in the rotation.

Niese could also go to the bullpen if he doesn’t make the rotation.

He pitched for the Mets in the 2015 postseason when the Mets went to the World Series. In six postseason games, he was 0-0, 5.06.

For his career, Niese is 69-68, 4.07, ERA+ 93. His 162 g. average is 12-11, 4.07, ERA+ 93. Average ERA+ is 100.

UPDATE: The Yanks announced that they are considering him solely for relief.

Gossage, like Levine, needs to zip it.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Besides Randy Levine needing to zip it more often, another person who needs to zip it is Rich “Goose” Gossage, who showed up in camp with his annual rant against relief pitchers, and particularly the great and classy Mariano Rivera.

Goose was great. His plaque is in Monument Park, deservedly so. In his prime, 1978-1983 as a Yankee, he averaged 7-5, 2.10, and 25 saves/yr. Remember that he missed 1/2 of 1979 due to the Cliff Johnson fight and 1/3 of 1981 due to the players’ strike. He is in the HOF, rightfully so, with a record of 124-107, 310 saves, 3.01 ERA and ERA+ of 126. (Goose also spent part of 1989 with the Yanks, at the end of his career). In that 1978-1983 time frame, he averaged 1 2/3 innings per appearance.

Goose spent one year starting for the White Sox in 1976.

Now Goose did pitch 2 2/3 innings in that famous Bucky Dent playoff game vs. Boston in 1978.

In what seems to be his annual rant against baseball today, he says (with expletives) not to compare him, Sutter, Fingers, etc. to pitchers like Rivera, Chapman, etc. because the latter day pitchers are one-inning guys. Fair enough.

But the way Goose disparages Rivera is uncalled for. Mariano’s #42 is retired by the Yankees, rightfully so, and Mo should be joining Goose in the HOF in 2019. He should get in almost unanimously, if not unanimously (there is always one jerk out there) on the very first ballot. What’s Goose going to do, boycott the ceremony?

Taking away Mo’s rookie season of 1995, when he started 10 games, from 1996 to the end of his career, Mariano pitched in 950 games, 1216 2/3 IP, averaging almost 1 1/3 innings per appearance—not too far off of Goose’s 1978-1983 average of 1 2/3. Rivera, of course, finished his career 82-60, a record 652 saves, 2.21 ERA and ERA+ a record 205.

And Mo did pitch three innings in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

The game changed. Goose should not hold Mo responsible for that or disparage Mo. Mo did his job, as the job requirements demanded at that time, as good or better than anyone else, just as Goose did his job, as the requirements demanded at the time, as good or better than anyone else.

The game has changed. Pitchers don’t throw complete games anymore. You don’t see starters throwing 300 innings in a season anymore. But you don’t hear Sandy Koufax or Bob Gibson bitching about today’s great starters, do you?

In the same way, relief pitching has changed. I’m old school, and can agree with and sympathize with Gossage’s opinion.

But at the same time, Goose comes across as a bitter, classless, crotchety old man.

It’s to the classy Rivera’s credit that he doesn’t respond in kind. Mo’s not like that.

Enough already. Goose should just praise Mo for the great reliever he was, add that there were two different kinds of eras, and say I was great in mine, Mo was great in his, and be done with it.

Because Goose’s bitching is getting rather tiresome.

Between Goose’s rant and Randy Levine’s gloating over the Dellin Betances’ arbitration case, I was a little ashamed this week—a week I usually can’t wait for, what with spring training starting.

Hey guys, zip it, and let’s concentrate on baseball. Don’t disparage the game and the players but respect and honor good players.

Because your comments this week were very sad to hear, and I’m sure I am not the only Yankees fan saddened, disheartened, and quite frankly, a bit pissed at what I saw and heard.

Betances loses arbitration case, Bleier DFA’d, and not too nice thoughts on Randy Levine.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

In his three full years as a Yankee, Dellin Betances has been an All-Star all three times, and has averaged 5-3, 1.93. That wasn’t good enough for him to win an arbitration case, where he wanted $5MM for 2017. He’ll settle for $3MM instead.

But that is where it should have ended. Now you start the season. But no, team president Randy Levine, whom I have never liked because of various arrogant things he has said and done (remember his quotes from last year’s trade deadline?) came out afterwards and basically rubbed the decision right into Betances’ face, like doing a touchdown dance and spiking the ball right into your face.

Why? Why rub it in and piss off your player, especially when he is one of the best players on the team and one of the best setup men in baseball? For a $2MM difference? Why not just say it’s over with and wish Betances a good year?

Betances was pissed at what Levine had to say and I don’t blame him. I hope it doesn’t affect Betances for the season.

As for Levine, once a jerk, always a jerk.

The Yanks earlier this week DFA’d Richard Bleier to make room for newly acquired Chris Carter on the roster. I was sad to see this. Bleier, 29, LHP, did a good job for the Yanks in 2016. In 23 games, 23 innings pitched, he had an ERA of just 1.96. Maybe he’ll be re-signed and go to AAA, we’ll see. But he did a good job in 2016 and I was sad to see that he got the axe because of the Carter signing.

That Carter signing doesn’t look as bad now that Austin got hurt. You never know.

Swisher and Choate retire.

Yankee Stadium Frieze
This week saw the retirement of two former Yankees.

Nick Swisher, RF for the 2009 WS champs (249-29-82, OPS+ 122), and a Yankee 2009-2012, retired. An All-Star in 2010, he hit .268 with 105 HR in his 4 years as a Yankee, OPS+ 124. It’s where he had his best years. For his career, he hit .249 with 245 HR, OPS+ 113. From 2004-2015 he played for the A’s, White Sox, Yankees, Indians and Braves.In the postseason, the ebullient Swish went .165-4-8 in 47 games.

Randy Choate, who was a rookie in 2000 and the last active player from that 2000 WS Championship team (0-1, 4.76), also retired.  Choate was with the Yanks 2000-2003, going 3-2, 4.43 as a Yankee, ERA+ 104. He may have been an unlikely candidate for 15 years in the majors, but that’s what being a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY) will do for you. In his career he went 16-14, 3.90, ERA+ 108 for the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rays, Marlins, Dodgers and Cardinals and besides pitching for the Yanks in the 2001 WS, pitched for the Cardinals in the 2013 WS. He was 0-1, 3.38 in 21 postseason games.

 

Austin, Williams injured.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

When you are a young player trying to make a team, the last thing you want is to be injured in spring training where you can’t even make any impression at all.

That is just what happened to Mason Williams and Tyler Austin.

Williams, fighting to make the team as a backup OF (a spot that most likely will go to Aaron Hicks if the starting OF is the projected Gardner/Ellsbury/Judge) will miss two weeks because of inflammation of his left patellar tendon. I like what I’ve seen of Williams so far, but the injury bug has really bit him the past few years. Shoulder, now this. You wonder if time is running out on him to make a mark, what with Judge, Clint Frazier, Dustin Fowler…

And now Tyler Austin. Austin was expected to battle Greg Bird for the 1B job until the Yanks signed Chris Carter. After that signing, it was trying to make the team as a backup 1b/OF. Austin will now not make the team after breaking his foot during BP. He’ll be out six weeks, and with him being behind schedule, it is safe to assume he won’t be coming north with the big league club.

If you can’t wait to see Gary Sanchez put one over the wall, even in BP early in spring training, check out this link to see a monster shot off the scoreboard today in BP.

http://m.mlb.com/cutfour/2017/02/16/216263404/new-year-same-gary-sanchez-watch-the-yankees-phenom-blast-a-home-run-off-a-scoreboard